Heading into next year's presidential election, some of my progressive Blue State Democratic friends still think it’s worthwhile to try to convert Ever Trumpers, a minority in their midst.
This old union and NAACP-card packing Hubert Humphrey Democrat never shared their evangelical zeal.
Ever Trumpers are a hefty majority in my neck of the western Kentucky woods, where I've lived all my 70 years. The ones I know aren't what my Baptist friends call a "fertile mission field." They're not good candidates for a Road to Damascus experience either.
The other day, a buddy of mine who writes a liberal column for a conservative newspaper in a small town near me emailed me this email rejoinder to his latest musing:
“You are the biggest unAmerican I know in Western Kentucky? Your articles show you are a damn Socialist, Abortion loving ass?? Are you proud of Nancy, Nadler and Schiff?? How about those Crooked Clintons?? You love the Illegal Aliens?? Open Borders?? I don't blame you for hateing Trump. He has America back on Track after 8 years of the Obama disaster. You should be ashamed of yourself. How about Moving to Cuba or Venezuela?? That is what Democrats produce.”
Apparently, progressives got the idea of doing missionary work among the Trump faithful right after he got elected in one of the biggest upsets in a presidential election ever.
I wonder what conversion therapy my fellow progressives up North and on the West Coast might try on this spelling-challenged Trumpian? Doubtless, he's among the 64.6 percent of voters who went for Trump in my friend's nearly 90 percent white county. (The president collected 76.4 percent in my 87 percent white county.)
Apparently, progressives got the idea of doing missionary work among the Trump faithful right after he got elected in one of the biggest upsets in a presidential election ever. The media, scrambling to interpret Trump's gobsmacking win, mainly concluded that most whites voted for Trump because of economic anxiety.
The newshounds had scant empirical evidence to buttress their narrative. No matter, a lot of progressives bought it and called for “witnessing”—another old Baptist term—to Trump voters. In other words, win them over by persuading them that they'd enjoy more job security, plus better pay, benefits and working conditions with Democrats in charge (which they would).
I never believed that dog would hunt hereabouts.
If you'd eavesdropped at just about any local eatery or public place, you'd hear white folks, most of them pretty well heeled, griping about Mexican immigrants and "that Muslim president who was born in Africa." More than a few cars and trucks in the parking lots sported novelty Confederate flag front license plates and Trump-Pence stickers.
Also, during the 2016 campaign, one of the few ecumenically-minded local Republicans asked her neighbor, a liberal Democratic pastor who leans toward ecumenism himself, to deliver the invocation at a GOP gathering. The Trump faithful booed him.
More studies revealed that poor whites don't make up the bulk of Trump’s base. Middle- and upper-class conservative white evangelicals do. (They're a big Trump demographic in my end of Kentucky and elsewhere in my home state.)
Citing two researchers, the New York Times’ Thomas B. Edsall wrote that “the surge of whites into the Republican Party has been led by whites with relatively high incomes — in the top two quintiles of the income distribution — but without college degrees, a constituency that is now decisively committed to the Republican Party.”
My pal's email also sent me rummaging through my computer files for a Leonard Pitts Jr. column that ran in the Miami Herald in 2018. The headline was a grabber: "No, it’s not the economy, stupid. Trump supporters fear a black and brown America."
"We’re going to try something different today," he wrote. "Rather than pontificate yet again upon the motives of Donald Trump’s supporters, I’ll let a few of them explain themselves in their own words."
He cited "Robert:"
“President Trump has accomplished more positive things for this nation in less than two years than the last three have accomplished in twenty plus years. After the past eight years of a Muslim Marxist in the White House this nation could not survive another demwit in the White House. … Could you please list one thing the demwit party has done for the black people in America other than hand out government freeies for their continued votes?”
"[America] has a constitution which guarantees equal rights for all and yet people like you hungar for change that puts people like me in the back of the bus. You seem egar to know what it would be like to be in the driver’s seat. You need look no further than Zimbabwe and South Africa. When people like you started driving the bus, the wheels came off. That’s what terrifies people like me.”
Pittssaid he penned his column "as a service for those progressive readers who are struggling with something I said in this space. Namely, that I see no point in trying to reason with Trump voters. I first wrote that over a month ago, and I am still hearing how 'disappointed' they are at my refusal to reach out. So I thought it might be valuable to hear from the people I’ve failed to reach out to.
"I’m sure some of you think those emails were cherry-picked to highlight the intolerance of Trump voters. They weren’t. They are, in fact, a representative sampling from a single day in May, culled by my assistant, Judi.
Pitts also suggested that "it’s still an article of faith for many that the Trump phenomenon was born out of fiscal insecurity, the primal scream of working people left behind by a changing economy. But I don’t think I’ve ever, not once, seen an email from a Trump supporter who explained himself in terms of the factory or the coal mine shutting down. (Mum's the word about the economy in the email my friend got.)
"I have, however, heard from hundreds like 'Matthew,' who worries about 'immigrants' and 'Gerald,' who thinks people of color have an 'alliance' against him. Such people validate the verdict of a growing body of scholarship that says, in the words of a new study by University of Kansas professors David N. Smith and Eric Hanley, 'The decisive reason that white, male, older and less educated voters were disproportionately pro-Trump is that they shared his prejudices and wanted domineering, aggressive leaders …'
"....But at the same time, let us be clear-eyed and tough-minded in assessing what’s happened to our country — and why. How else can we salvage it from the likes of 'A Trumper' who says Trump was needed to 'get things back in order' after the 'terrible job' done by President Obama?
"He wrote: 'We’re sick of paying welfare to so many of your brothers who don’t know what work and integrity mean. I hope you keep writing these articles and reminding my White Christian brothers that we did the right thing and we need to re elect Trump.'"
Last month, Michael Moore was clear eyed and tough-minded, too, when he came on "All in With Chris Hayes" and warned the host, "we all tried at Thanksgiving dinner to convince the conservative brother-in-law of the wrongness of his ways, but he's three years deep into pro-Trump. He's lost. And we have to kind of give up on them, because we don`t have the time."
Moore proposed a different tactic: "All of our time right now between now and next November, has to be getting out the largest political party in America, the non-voters. 100 million people who do not vote."
That's a real "fertile mission field" ripe for missionary work and "witnessing."